With out-patient services shut, doctors' phone have turned into helpline

9 months ago 22
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Work starts as early as 7am for Prof Kauser Usman, senior faculty member at King George’s Medical University (KGMU), as he takes patients’ phone calls at home. Most of these patients want to know about Covid and its symptoms.

Prof Usman speaks to them patiently, offering medical advice and words of comfort. He is not the only one of his fraternity reaching out to patients in this manner. In fact, the number of calls to doctors has doubled ever since the pandemic began.

An expert in medicine, Prof Usman gets calls from diabetics too as diabetes is a comorbidity that has been diagnosed in about 50% of those who have died in the corona wards of hospitals.

As the regular OPD is closed, his phone has turned into a virtual helpline. He guides patients to the fever clinic, tells them how to get tests done and talks about home care if they are fit enough for home isolation.

“Picking up the phone has two reasons. First, the quick response guides them to the correct diagnosis facility. Hence, the treatment response starts early and has been seen (to be) impactful. Second, if they are able to talk to a doctor, they feel confident, another important factor in fighting the infection,” Prof Usman says.

In all, his phone became a medical helpline of sorts for about 150 patients, who could not visit KGMU OPD. Currently, about two dozen patients are consulting him amid the pandemic.

Like him, other doctors give a patient hearing to patients, suggest tests, read reports on WhatsApp, recommend medicines and then do a follow-up on the telephone. It’s all in a day’s work. The patients are making calls irrespective of the doctors’ specialty.

Dr Samir Misra, senior faculty, trauma surgery at King George’s Medical University, says, “If I answer the phone at midnight, the anxiety level is certain to go down as the patient is able to speak to a doctor, irrespective of the specialty.”

“The first thing patients need is to clarify whether they have Covid or not. They need to discuss it threadbare. Hence, my cell phone keeps ringing with calls from old patients, who have visited my OPD,” says Prof Vinod Jain, also of KGMU.

Prof Jain, who is in home isolation after testing positive, says, “Correct guidance ensures quick and correct treatment, which is necessary for a speedy recovery in case of the viral infection. If I can do it despite my illness, I feel satisfied to help.”

Dr Abhishek Shukla, an expert in geriatric medicine, too, is attending patients in a similar manner.

“Every fever is being assumed as Covid-19 and patients are isolating themselves immediately. The next thing they do is contact a doctor on the phone. A majority of my patients are in the risk group of above 60 years. WhatsApp is mostly used for communication (with them),” he says.

“Statistically, the number of calls from patients seeking advice has doubled,” says Dr Misra.

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